Sunday, January 18, 2009

IISER, NISER

In his blog, my colleague talks about setting up IISERs and NISERs. He mentions that the previous government mentioned that IISERs were supposed to be setup in Allahabad, Bhubaneswar, Chennai and Kolkata. The current government overruled it and said it will be set up in Kolkata, Chennai, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram while a NISER would be setup in Bhubaneswar. Are the IISERs and NISER different? Obviously not, except that NISER is funded by DAE. Except for IISER-Chennai, all the others have been setup and their directors have been appointed. The following link even compares the academic credentials of the directors. Thus, the only city that was dropped was Allahabad and it becomes obvious why if you consider where the previous government's HRD minister got his doctorate from. People in the "know" seem to explain why IISER Chennai has not been setup, yet. The point of Abi's blog, however,is that the policies of the government has been changed by its successor is well taken but this is not surprising at all.

Regarding the question whether IISERs/NISER are successful, it depends on the criteria you set. I do not know how one evaluates an academic institution in India. I do know, however, that atleast two of the above IISERs have received more than thousand applications each for their faculty positions in the four science subjects. A large number of students write the entrance exam and are interviewed. Their faculty have got funding from DST etc and have started publishing papers. However, infrastructure problems remain but are hopefully, teething. Even an established institution like IISc, which got 100 crores in 2007, will complete all its buildings only in 2009. Anyone who works in administration will tell you that getting hundred crores from the government is much easier than spending it following all the myraid (and, maybe, archaic) rules.

However, I do think that the success of an institute is judged mainly by its students. If world-class motivated students join and their motivation is sustained, this will result in an excellent institution. Despite flaws, exams like JEE/CAT/GATE that filter out 95% of the candidates result in world class students. However, the motivation in them has to be sustained. [The fact that B.Tech students who do not get any jobs or admitted for higher studies teach other B.Tech students in many private engineering colleges demotivates most of the incoming undergraduate students.] The incoming students will remain motivated only if the faculty are world-class and motivated.

With the current scarcity of good faculty, a rapid recruitment of faculty just to fill up the position will result in a bleak future for these institutions. Even if world-class faculty are recruited by IISERs, these faculty will remain motivated if and only if it is augmented by excellent infrastructure like lab facilities , efficient administration that is not required to follow outdated arcane rules, merit based evaluations for all promotions/ awards, ability to expand without the mentality that small is beautiful, unfettered research grants, emphasis on excellence rather than social networks and, finally, money. However, granting only the last (money) makes that the required condition for excellence is met but sufficient conditions for creating and maintaining excellence (in academics) are not met.

5 comments:

pradeepkumar said...

Your post reminded me of reading the following article by Jayant Narlikar published in TOI (2005)

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1186043.cms

Giri@iisc said...

Thanks for the link. I was unaware of the article. I only wish that I could write as well as Jayant Narlikar.

pradeepkumar said...

You are welcome. Narlikars writing style is marvelous. You may also interested to read this EPW article which is a response of two other articles appeared in early 2008.

http://boson.bose.res.in/~anita/anitamehtaepw.pdf

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my incisive gumptions said...

Sir ,iam searching for information about IISER ( actually my brother has got selected in IISER thiruvananthapuram and completely clueless abt the institute)...Thank you very much for such a good blog sir...very informative..!